Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Troubling Results -- please ignore them.

A very provocative headline:

Oakland Press: Oakland High Schools: Are they lagging? (12/05/07)

The article begins with:

“Several of Oakland County’s top-achieving high schools got good grades on the state’s report card but failed to achieve the adequate yearly progress required under the No Child Left Behind mandate.

Only 11 of Oakland County’s 28 school districts received an overall adequate yearly progress (AYP) rating for high schools on the state’s report card — the same number as last year. At the building level, 23 county high schools failed to achieve the required AYP and 13 were successful.”


Those are disturbing statistics that deserve attention.

But, just as parents and taxpayers might begin to show a momentary interest in what Michigan school are – and aren’t – doing, we are quickly directed to ignore the results.

“… Ernie Bauer, director of testing and evaluation at the Oakland Intermediate School District, questions the value of using AYP to rank the quality of a high school. “Let’s look at some of the schools that did not make AYP: both high schools in Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham and Troy — six of the highest-achieving buildings in the state. It gives you an idea of how much value you should place in the system,” Bauer said.”

You can almost feel the relief in parents. “Phew! I’m not sure what that means, but I’m glad to hear there are no problems with our Michigan schools.”

Of course, the article dutifully misses the really boring details, like the fact that even our best performing schools still have anywhere from 10% - 20% of their high school students who are not proficient in English, Math, or Science.

I don't mean in any way whatsoever to single out any specific districts or schools; those particular schools cited by Dr. Bauer truly are -- relatively speaking -- among the best in the state. The point is that educators are so quick to dismiss anything that paints them in a unfavorable light, and reporters repeat it without hesitation and oftentimes fail miserably when it comes to making any effort to put the "education spin" in perspective. (Here's another example from the Livonia Eccentric, which completely dodges the discussion on the "Grade", and instead zeros in on this "unfair" goal of making sure that all children are tested.)

Those who are interested can read more about the report cards here:

http://www.michigan.gov/mde

You can begin by reading the 27 page “Guide to Reading School Report Cards”. Or, if you prefer lighter reading, you can read the IRS Tax code.

:-)

The Michigan Department of Education also provides handy links on their website so that you can examine your school’s scores. Of course they are semi-secure links, which means someone like me cannot make it easy for people by providing direct links to them. You must instead navigate through the state’s website.

Here is my (sarcasticly) easy navigation guide:

First click on Michigan School Report Cards. Then, on the bottom left, find “Browse School”. Choose the letter of the alphabet, and find your school in the list. Then click on the “View Details” link under the “Status Score 2006-07”. On the next screen, click on the “View Details” link under the “Change Adjustment” heading. This will let you see the proficiency levels.

I am really surprised more people don’t want to learn more about their schools, especially given the easy to access and easy to understand data.

:-(

I’ve pasted below the “objective” Oakland Press article below in case the link doesn’t work.

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Oakland high schools: Are they lagging?
By DIANA DILLABER MURRAY Of The Oakland Press


Several of Oakland County’s top-achieving high schools got good grades on the state’s report card but failed to achieve the adequate yearly progress required under the No Child Left Behind mandate.

Only 11 of Oakland County’s 28 school districts received an overall adequate yearly progress (AYP) rating for high schools on the state’s report card — the same number as last year. At the building level, 23 county high schools failed to achieve the required AYP and 13 were successful. But Ernie Bauer, director of testing and evaluation at the Oakland Intermediate School District, questions the value of using AYP to rank the quality of a high school. “Let’s look at some of the schools that did not make AYP: both high schools in Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham and Troy — six of the highest-achieving buildings in the state. It gives you an idea of how much value you should place in the system,” Bauer said.

The federal No Child Left Behind mandates the AYP evaluation, which is based on several criteria, including performance and participation in the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests, graduation rate for high schools and student attendance for elementary and middle schools.

In addition, Michigan’s Education Yes! program also evaluates schools and gives a letter grade, such as A, B or C, to determine state accreditation. Only one Oakland County high school received an A under the Education Yes! side of the report card — Bloomfield International Academy, which serves several districts.

Both rankings are part of the state Department of Education’s 2006-2007 report card. The majority of the county’s school districts fared better when it came to progress in middle and elementary schools.

All but one Oakland County district, Madison, achieved the overall AYP grade for its elementary schools, and all but two districts, Pontiac and Oak Park, achieved AYP on the middle schools’ column of their report card.

Among those high schools achieving AYP in 2006-07 and receiving a grade of B were Brandon, Clarkston, Clawson, North Farmington, Novi, Rochester Adams and Stoney Creek, Walled Lake Northern and West Bloomfield high schools.

It is possible for a school to receive a high grade under Education Yes! but not make the AYP requirements.

Included among the high schools receiving a grade of B but not achieving AYP were Lake Orion, Troy High and Troy Athens, Rochester, Huron Valley’s Milford and Lakeland, Farmington High and Farmington Harrison, Birmingham Seaholm and Groves, and Bloomfield Hills Andover and Lahser.

Tim McAvoy, spokesman for Troy school district, said it is not students’ performance but requirements to test results for each subgroup of students that keeps some high schools from achieving AYP. Ninety-five percent of the entire student body, as well as 95 percent of students in each subgroup of 30 or more, must take and pass the exam.

“Athens and Troy high schools are among two of best-performing high schools in the nation,” McAvoy said. “At our school, it was not performance, it was the participation rate of subgroups,” he said. The subgroups include the major racial and ethnic groups, students with disabilities, students that are economically disadvantaged and students limited in English proficiency.

At Athens, for example, one of the subgroups included 32 students with disabilities. But only 28 students completed the testing, thereby not counting toward AYP.

“It is an issue we are going to have to take a look at,” McAvoy said.

West Bloomfield Superintendent Gary Faber said he is pleased the achievement gap between subgroups is closing.

“The efforts we are making throughout the district are paying off,” Faber said.

Each year, the states sets proficiency standards for students to achieve. And each year, the required percentage correct on the exams is moved up, challenging schools to help students reach higher achievement.

For the 2006-2007 school year, on which the report card is based, the state objective was to see 56 percent of elementary students demonstrate proficiency in mathematics and 48 percent in English language arts; 43 percent of middle school students proficient in math and 43 percent in English language arts; and 44 percent of high school students proficient in math and 52 percent in English.

The goal is to reach 100 percent in both math and English at all grade levels by 2013-2014.

The percentage of high schools not making adequate yearly progress this past year increased by more than 9 percent across the state, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

The state reports that for the 2006-07 school year, 489 high schools did not make AYP, which is required by the federal No Child Left Behind law, compared to 399 high schools that did not make AYP the previous year. Of the 489 schools not making AYP last year, 15 have been closed by their local school districts, according to the state Web site.

“This isn’t unexpected,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan. “We changed our high school graduation requirements because we knew we needed higher standards to prepare our kids for the demands of college and the work world. These results just remind us how critical that change was.”

The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires that adequate yearly progress be calculated for all elementary, middle and high schools as well as each school district. The school district must attain the target achievement goal in reading and mathematics — or reduce the percentage of students in the non-proficient category.

While Oakland Schools’ Bauer may be a big critic of the process, he also is among those who sees good coming from the intense focus ensuring no child is left behind.

“There are many of us who believe some very good things have happened because of paying attention to every student. The old mentality of scoring and selection doesn’t work. Now you need to look at the unique need of this group and that group.

“We ought to look at the individual kid and where he is now and how he has moved forward,” Bauer said.

“Many schools have responded and have seen the need for better systems for knowing who is learning and who is not. We have ways of making sure those kids that don’t get it the first time, get it.”

Bauer said he and some educators have lobbied for more explanation of the other factors that can keep a school from getting AYP.

“If there are 50 ways to not make it, it would be nice to know why you did not make it,” Bauer said.

Contact staff writer Diana Dillaber Murray at (248) 745-4638 or diana. dillaber@oakpress.com.


1 comment:

Lone_Heckler said...

Please check the Detroit News editorial as well. Their spin is a little more sinister.

The problem with AYP is the few ~5% that don't show up on test day.

If any subgroup economic or ethnic fails the 95% take AND pass, the school fails.

There are parents that hold their kids on test days to "protest" NCLB.

The problem is that it does no good and only hurts the good schools for AYP.

Any one dimensional number to evaluate schools should be suspect. These are far more complicated systems to analyze than 256 levels of gray.